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Bensouda urges UNSC to encourage Sudan to cooperate with ICC

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ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda speaks to the media after her arrival in Khartoum on 17 October 2020 (ST photo)December 10, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The general prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) urged the United Nations Security Council to impress Khartoum to allow its teams to investigate war crimes in Darfur.

"I reiterate this call and urge this Council to impress upon Sudan the urgent need for my investigators to access its territory and in particular, to conduct investigative missions in Darfur without further delay," the prosecutor said on Thursday.

In a videoconference briefing to the 15-member body, Fatou Bensouda disclosed that her team was due to travel to Sudan in November for an operational assessment mission to prepare the arrival of investigation teams, two weeks after her first visit to Sudan from 17 to 20 October.

"Unfortunately, this mission was postponed at the request of the Sudanese authorities. No new dates have been offered and the window of opportunity to conduct investigations prior to Mr Abd-Al-Rahman’s confirmation of charges hearing is rapidly closing," she stressed.

The prime minister and the other senior Sudanese officials pledged to facilitate the ground investigation works that the war crimes court needs to carry out before the trial of Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, aka "Ali Kushayb".

On 22 February, the ICC pre-trial court will decide whether accusations of crimes against humanity against Ali Kushayb are strong enough for a full trial.

"Unless the mission is rescheduled soon, my Office risks losing a golden opportunity to directly engage with victims and witnesses, in situ, for the first time and to ensure their evidence is made available to the judges at Mr Abd-Al-Rahman’s confirmation of charges hearing," she stressed.

Ali Kushayb surrendered himself to the ICC in June 2020 in the neighbouring Central African Republic as he had fled from Darfur after the collapse of the former regime.

Bensouda said they sent a draft memorandum of understanding on modalities of cooperation between the Court and the Sudanese government shortly after their return from Khartoum and they are still awaiting the reply of the Sudanese government.

The prosecutor further said that the Sudanese government did not officially inform them about the handover of the remaining suspects.

She stressed that the ICC suspects including Omer al-Bashir must be brought to justice " either before the Court or in Sudanese courts, guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute".

"This Council can play a decisive role in expediting this process and ensuring Sudan’s full, prompt and tangible cooperation with the ICC, consistent with its international obligations," she added after calling on the Sudanese government to dialogue with the court on this respect.

(ST)

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